School Year

by Joe Benevento

When a child, I understood the season
of dying coinciding with the start
of school. I recall one early September
Sunday night when it became cold enough
for my mother to place blankets on us
after we were already in our beds,
as if to snug us away from escape
from the next morning's ordering bells.
At sixty, I prefer order so well
I profess it for a living at a U.
Summer so soon gone hardly bothers me.
Instead the beach, flowers, songbirds, short nights
almost annoy me: I embrace the start
of another ending with each class I teach.

My Sister’s Last Gift

by Joe Benevento

Memories seem more fragile and so
authentic in black and white.  The photo
from 1957 Barbara framed for me
captures our Grandpa Frank's last
birthday: he sits all sides surrounded
rich only in grandchildren.
Among the fifteen present, the five
Beneventos born by then— Barbara, a favorite
at four on grandpa's lap— me, off to one side
crying, holding some little object I can't
now identify, hoisted up to camera range
by my smiling oldest sister Rose Anne.

Barbara herself never gave me the gift;
it was among the Christmas presents
in a padded envelope she still hadn't mailed
in February, that shortest month
when she died.

To receive a gift photo featuring
a man you never had time
to know, from a sister you will lack
for the rest of your loss-fueled life:
small wonder I'm caught a baby
crying forever in its small, dark
frame.